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Shoot First, Don't Ask Questions Later

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There is a webpage floating out there in cyberspace that nicely  illustrates the rabidly pro-vaccine camp's attitude about vaccine risks specifically, and the truth in general.  Just as they promote injections, with virtually no proper follow-up, i.e., by shooting first, etc., some are not at all reluctant to launch what I consider to be unfair and misleading attacks, failing to determine the fairness and accuracy of their claims. 

The website in question is titled "Misleading graphs, an example from the site of Sandy Mintz".  It is posted by a doctor, "Eve" aka "kidoctr", who is a contributor to a vaccinations discussion board.

While I don't mind the plug, and the many hits my graph gets because of this, for the record, here are the problems as I see them, with her goofy presentation of the information on my webpage.

First, my graph is not misleading.  It is a straightforward graph, using statistics supplied to me by the CDC.  There is absolutely no interpretation of the graph included on the page.  It simply shows the incidence of deaths from measles, going back to 1912 and ending in 1983.  I note the missing later years, and that the graph would not change much if they were added.

"Eve" may not like the fact that the continued decline in measles deaths post-vaccination, to almost zero, can hardly be seen.  But it is barely visible because relative to earlier drops, any further drop is minimal. 

"Eve" tries to justify using this graph as her example because "Anti-vaccination sites almost all use graphs to delineate the myth that VPDs (vaccine-preventable diseases) fell prior to the introduction of vaccines and that this serves as 'proof' that vaccines were never the real reason for their decline." However, my graph takes no such position. In fact, I, myself, do not hold that point of view, and have often said so, much to the consternation of some of my readers. 

So let me gladly take this opportunity to explain my thinking on this subject, and attempt to correct any misunderstanding of my views:

1)  I believe vaccines had some effect on the decline in disease incidence.  One only has to see how measles cases almost disappeared overnight, to believe they had an effect.  How much of an effect they had, I cannot say, although in the case of measles it does appear to have been significant.  However, since there have never been any long-term studies comparing the vaccinated to the never vaccinated, we simply do not know the answer to that question.  (For more on this, click here.)

However, I also believe that vaccines mostly impacted overt cases of many of these diseases, including measles.  And that subclinical and mild cases of these diseases continue to occur, with almost no consideration for, or examination of, the possible consequences.

Note that there are often differences in the rates of change vis á vis disease incidence (morbidity) and deaths (mortality).  For instance, whereas vaccines appear to have had a considerable effect on measles incidence, they appear to have had relatively little effect on measles deaths.

2)  It is not always clear how much vaccines contributed to the CONTINUED decline in deaths/cases for the diseases, since many had already declined dramatically and one cannot assume they wouldn't have continued to decline without vaccination.  To repeat: Since there have never been any long-term studies comparing the vaccinated to the never vaccinated, we simply do not know the answer to that question.

3)  We also do not know if the impact vaccines have had on disease incidence/severity is permanent or temporary.  Changing serotypes, waning vaccine effectiveness and other factors certainly raise the specter of impermanence.  They even point to the alarming possibility that the diseases will come back in more severe form.

4)  The question, in my opinion, that should be asked is: "What has been the cost of any declining disease incidence brought about by the introduction of vaccines?"  To repeat: Since there have never been any long-term studies comparing the vaccinated to the never vaccinated, we simply do not know the answer to that question.

5)  It is completely unfair to use a neutral graph to counter a judgment that it does not make.

"Eve", in attacking me, is well in sync with the overall attitude of the ultra pro-vaccine community to the facts about vaccines and their presentation of them.  So I can't say I'm surprised. 

But I do want to thank her for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this most interesting and important subject.

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 9-12-2003            

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)